America usually can take the pulse of the people by taking a snapshot look at the popular music of its time. The late 70s and early 80s saw hip hop at a party state. In the mid 80s and early 90s Hip Hop saw a flurry of protest rap on the heels of the Reagan administration and apartheid. In the late 90s and early 2000s the Clinton administration, a better economy and the reluctance to have beef after the death of Tupac and Biggie saw an explosion of what seemed to be happier party music in the hip hop arena. However, with soaring gas prices and war among other things Hip Hop music seemed to be more aggressive and menacing up until lately. With a promise of a new hope and the end of the status quo several rappers bubbling up from the underground circuit seem to possess a vibrant youthfulness that that takes a bit of the party vibe from early hip hop and the raw lyricism of the golden era.
Washington D.C. bred MC Wale seems to be spearheading this movement where MCs are following their own pattern of clothes, sneakers and lyrics over guns, whips and drugs. Wale’s rise to popularity and respect is a lesson in how talent trumps image and predictability. Armed with a sense of humor, tireless work ethic and the ability to drop clever punch lines at a moment’s notice has gotten the attention of many industry heavyweights. You can hear the excitement in Wale’s vocal timbre although his delivery is a nonchalant half slurred flow. This has endeared him to a young crop of Hip Hop enthusiasts who have seemed to have overdosed, or even more telling, cannot relate to the gangster posturing of rap in the past five years or so. Wale’s new song and video “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E” is a perfect example of the new sound that’s part electro and part hip hop. The video puts a hip hop spin on the original version by electro duo Justice. Take a good look and listen; this may be a perfect snapshot of the times.